As I’ve mentioned before, I love the old school Kaiju flicks that have poured out of Asia, going back to Japan’s first terror-filled introduction to the genre in 1954, with the original Godzilla (or Gojira, more accurately) when he was acting as the cathartic personification of the fear and horror the Japanese population endured in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the twin nuclear bombings that brought WW2 to a close. There’s something charming and fun about them, especially some of the later titles from the 1960’s and 70’s, when he, at times, became humanities benefactor. That’s not even to mention the other offshoot monsters and clearly inspired clones that jockeyed for space in the theatres and video store shelves for literally decades also.
Recently, and again, the Americans have opted to delve back into their own version of the Kaiju genre, specifically honing in on the original Big Guy himself, with far more success than the first honest attempt, Roland Emmerich’s rightfully lambasted 1998 version of Godzilla. I’ve consistently enjoyed Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019), and was definitely looking forward to this most recent expansion of the blossoming Warner Bros. Monstervese. But, circumstances being what they are these days, I didn’t get in for a Big Screen viewing, which pissed me off, especially after I saw reviews that spoke favorably.
So I waited…
And FINALLY, just last night, it turned up on one of our streaming platforms, and I got hyped. My wife and I loaded up on the Friday Night Feel Goods (Chinese food, import beer and THC) and I hit PLAY, my trusty notepad and pen at my side.
Here lie those scribblings…
–Odd Kong intro. Oddly whimsical. We get an interesting start, with Kong rising and shining somewhere on Skull Island, going through his morning routine, up to and including scratching his giant, hairy ass as he trudges toward his shower / waterfall…all set to a toothless 1950’s tune. An unexpected setting of tone.
–Solid intro, with a twist. Monarch’s got cash! Ah, so it’s revealed that while the scene is set on Skull Island, there’s a bit of The Truman Show happening, where Kong’s habitat is concerned. It’s a massive dome that projects an image of the outside to fool the giant captive ape into thinking he’s still free to roam the island. He’s not, and soon figures this out.
–Credits continuity. I approve! I really dug the Se7en-inspired classified footage opening credits from the previous two flicks and was happy to see them return.
–Very Tarantino-like title cards. Very cool. Normally, I’m a fan of darker colors and shades (at least where attire is concerned), but I will admit to strongly favoring yellow, as brighter colors go. Here, all the Titles Cards and subtitles come in a pleasing shade of yellow, that reminded me of Quentin Tarantino’s penchant for employing the same color into his own flicks. Hell, if I were to be so lucky as to make a film (yea, right!) that needed subtitles and title cards, this is exactly the shade of yellow I would employ.
–Slick Godzilla intro! I liked that there was very little preamble to Godzilla’s inevitable re-introduction, with him suddenly surfacing beneath (while amazingly not destroying) a patrol boat just off the coast of Florida. Plus, the use of his atomic lighting, especially from his eyes, added to the already rich color / lighting palette.
–Sexy color scheme. As I just alluded to, director Adam Wingard (Death Note) follows stylistically what fellow director Michael Doughtery (Krampus) kicked off with Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019) and paints the movie in rich colors and lighting, making it feel like comic book panels coming to life. If nothing else, this flick looks great!
–Ok, smartass! Explain the lack of a core! And here’s where some issues start to arise…starting with the story. One key element is the suggestion (and eventual discovery) of Hollow Earth, a self-contained sphere world at the centre of our planet, connected by numerous cavernous tunnels, which may or may not be a dimensional gateway of some kind (don’t recall the explanation for the lightshow or distances traveled) that the Titans can use to get around. This world is inhabited by all manner of freaky beastys and phenomena. However, I was perplexed about the lack of explanation regarding of the molten core of our planet, which is where Hollow Earth SEEMS to sit. I didn’t find it as well explained as it could’ve been, especially since that without that ball of Hell-hot liquid iron, our planet simply doesn’t exist. Just saying.
–You had time to groom, huh Skarsgard? Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) plays a reclusive researcher / author named ‘Dr. Nathan Lind’, who is pulled into the fold to help lead the mission to transport Kong to the entrance to the Hollow Earth tunnel system. When he’s found, he’s all shaggy and bearded. Next time we see him, he’s all well groomed and baby faced. So, in light of the desperate race against time you find yourself in, you had time to pop into the barber shop, get yourself all prettied up before taking on this harrowing mission? C’mon, dude! Rock that Grizzly Adams look!
–Stop the press! Who is THAT?! Finally, some eye candy! We get a new human antagonist in the form of corporate shark ‘Maia Simmons’ (Eiza Gonzalez), representing the shadowy Titan-focused corporation Apex, and while she’s a transparently conniving and self-interested bitch, she did look fine while doing it.
–Good use of mute. Effective. It’s established that Kong has a perplexing but tender relationship with a young deaf girl named ‘Jia’ (Kaylee Hottle) and whenever we drift into her POV, the sound always mutes out, giving those scenes more of an intimate intensity, especially those where she’s being towered over by the giant simian.
–He speaks? I’m OK with this. This is probably a spoiler of some kind but at one point in the flick, Kong utters a single, poignant word, in English, that is heard by the humans monitoring him and it subsequently blows their minds. They only leave it as a hint, with them thankfully not having Kong go full-on linguist as the story plays out.
–Love the synth-wave. 80’s Retro is still a big thing, and Wingard and Co. delved into it here, with a cool synth-wavy score by up-and-coming heavy weight composer Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road) underscoring the proceedings. I liked it.
–Are they giving credence to conspiracy theory assholes? I suspect this one is a mere nitpick based on my own prejudices, but one thing I can’t stand these days is the proliferation of ignorant shits out there promoting baseless conspiracy theories that give the willfully ignorant masses bullshit to try using as ammunition to support their dumbass, proudly ignorant claims of victimhood and entitlement. Godzilla VS Kong has a somewhat grating subplot involving Millie Bobbie Brown’s character ‘Madison’, returning from the last flick to swallow the kool-aid being doled out by a conspiracy theory peddling podcaster who thinks he’s stumbled onto the nefarious Apex corporation’s unscrupulous dealings (he has, actually). While I do appreciate the idea of turning the tin foil hat-wearing crazy guy out to be correct, for the sake of subversion of expectation, in this day and age, the less I hear about the idea of outlandish conspiracy theory bullshit, right or wrong, the better.
–Head butt! Kong lays a vicious smash in the face on the giant atomic lizard during a devastating round of fisticuffs. It’s pretty awesome.
– F-35 lawn dart! During the skirmish, Kong grabs an F-35 jet fighter off the deck of a besieged aircraft carrier and proceeds to lawn dart the fucker at his attacker, much to the dismay of the pilot still in the jet, who gets to know his ejection seat real fast.
–Wait…how’d Kong get away underwater?! Another potential plot-hole / deleted scene / convenience occurs when Godzilla gets the upper hand, yanking Kong down to Davey Jones’ locker just as the Navy ships on the surface above bombard the area with depth charges. *Ba-Boom!* Massive blast. And…
…Kong just surfaces, somehow freed from both ‘Zilla’s relentless grasp and the ravages of the high explosives down deep, none the worse for wear. It felt like they glossed right over what should’ve been a harrowing and exciting escape in order to just move on to the next scene. A wee bit lazy.
–Cute kid. There’s a moment after the initial battle where ‘Jia’ and Kong share a look and a silent moment of communication that really nailed down the adorableness of Kaylee Hottle and the instincts of whoever the casting agent was.
–Some characters make stupid decisions. Millie…looking at YOU! While I was on board with ‘Madison’s journey in the previous movie, here I actually could’ve done without her, especially since her entire narrative is loaded with convenience and stupid decisions. The ease with which her and her two moronic companions infiltrate / stumble into a super high-tech Apex facility to find evidence of wrongdoing was also laughable, almost to the point of ridiculousness.
–Love the snake-monster dragons! Almost as soon as the story reaches Hollow Earth, Kong is attacked by a pair of surprisingly cool-looking dragon-like serpents, which he dispatches in a highly satisfying and somewhat gross way. Worked for me!
–Mecha-Godzilla! Says it right there. This entry sees the introduction of a classic Godzilla foe first introduced in 1974’s Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, repurposed (effectively, IMO) for this particular story. I liked what they ended up doing with it.
– Hollow Earth looks good. Several times, I found myself wandering how GvK would play with a 3D presentation and I honestly think it would’ve been sweet (was a 3D version released? Too lazy to search it out). A prime example of this would’ve been the sequences taking place in the inverted sphere world of Hollow Earth. It simply looks great.
– Cool Ghidorah cameo. Or what I thought was just a cameo, at the time I scribbled this. A piece of the big bad from the last movie’s skull plays prominently into developments later in the movie, to less-than-peaceful effect.
– Massive implied body count. Though there is admittedly very little onscreen death, the implication of how many humans are being squashed, burned, irradiated, crushed and maimed is staggering when you think about it. They don’t even cop out with a line of dialogue from someone mid-action talking about how ‘the city is evacuated, let them fight!’. You just have to assume that every crashing body blow and radiation laser blast is wasting peeps by the hundreds as the buildings crash down and detonate around the two, grossly oversized combatants.
– Wait…how far down did ‘Zilla burn?! This was another moment where the logistics got murky. At one point, we see Godzilla position himself to unleash a sustained blast of Laser Breath straight into the ground, burrowing a tunnel toward Hollow Earth (I think). Reminder – Hollow Earth occupies the centre of our planet. A short time later, Kong, still traipsing around the mysterious sphere world below, looks over the edge of the newly blasted hole and meets Godzilla’s glare, who is staring over the side of the hole on his end. How the fuck did these two creatures, massive though they may be, manage to see each other over insane distances (and dimensional wormhole?) with ease?! In the moment, it made so little sense that I found it jarring for a second or two. Then the action continued.
– ‘Zilla smiles! Haha! This was literally just one shot but after the atomic lizard smashed Kong back through a building, he actually grins. The fucking once Metaphor for the Horrors of Nuclear War peels his green, armoured lips back in an unmistakable grin of macho satisfaction. Like Kong uttering a word in English, I was OK with this fun little detail.
– Good reason for mecha sentience. *SPOILER*…
…Mechagodzilla first starts off as a massive mech-warrior type of armoured ROV, being controlled remotely via a human pilot. The problem arises when the remaining consciousness of King Ghidorah jumps ship and hi-jacks the fearsome robot, intent on exacting revenge on Godzilla for the beat down and ultimate demise he laid down on the 3 headed Space Dragon of Evil previously. I liked this twist and actually appreciated them bringing Ghidorah back in some form, as he was a formidable shithead in the last flick and made for a natural nemesis for the big green guy. A bit of a Lex Luthor to Godzilla’s Superman.
– Many coincidences ensue! This was mostly confined to the Millie Bobbie Brown sequences but the script relied a tad bit too much on convenience to move the admittedly well-paced narrative along. They used just enough to be noticeable and at times, it reeked of laziness.
– Fun flick. Not great but solidly entertaining. Just shut the brain off. That one sums it up nicely.
And thus ends the scribbles for Godzilla VS Kong.
I had been looking forward to seeing this one for a while, since I got side-tracked from The Big Screen when fucking Covid-19 reared it’s ugly, most unwelcome head, and I’m happy to say that I got pretty much what I expected and hoped for, after finally catching up with it streaming. While I didn’t care too much for human aspects of the story (do we ever really, with these flicks?), I did get what I wanted in the form of large scale, epic destruction featuring these two titans of the big screen going head-to-head and fucking shit up spectacularly.
The cinematography is solid, the use of color and lighting is rich and stylish, the effects were upper tier and the overall pace was very user friendly. I liked the little character flourishes that each of the grand beasts were given over the course of their various chaotic interactions and loved that I could follow the crazy action and destruction as it played out. Another rousing score from Junkie XL also went a long way too. On the other hand, the flick is bogged down by a clumsy and convenience-laden subplot featuring unnecessary characters doing stupid shit that I didn’t care about. Though, while this complaint is definitely warranted, it wasn’t enough to seriously dampen the shut-your-brain-off popcorn quality that Godzilla VS Kong strove for, and MOSTLY succeeded at.
As a fresh title in this most recent American attempt on the originally Japanese franchise, it’s definitely a worthy addition that narratively and stylistically shares a lot with the previous films and based on that, I can easily recommend this creature feature to fans of Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla King of the Monsters (2019), as well as to those who dig large scale action and destruction in general.
Don’t come for the humans…come for the carnage! It’s a fun time!